Because all you need to say is three words and mean them. And it may just get you re-elected. Which I pray does not happen.
The good news: you don’t read. The better news: these three words are not only obscenities to you, they are buried so deeply in your psyche they’re unreachable. The best news: even if you could find them and somehow manage to Medi-Vac them into your throat and out your mouth, it would be impossible for you to say these three words and mean them.
The words? “I am sorry.”
So last night I’m watching the “A Block” of your new reality show, The Republican National Convention. They’re telling Jon Ponder’s story. By all accounts, Mr. Ponder has found the humility to turn his life around, to stop stealing, start giving, to be accountable for the mistakes he’s made. He hit his knees, made a vow and, after years of doing the heavy lifting, appears to be keeping it. Pardoning him feels like the right thing to do.
His story puts tears in my eyes, even though it’s clear you’ve turned Mr. Ponder’s humility into a political manipulation that’s all about you. You don’t really give a damn about Jon Ponder, but you certainly identify with people who lie, cheat, steal — you’re infatuated with the dark side of the human soul. And not just with mobster-kingpins like Putin and Kim Jong-un, but with the Jon Ponders, too. You’re impressed by transgressors who confess their sins publicly, who come to you on bended knee. You get to be benevolent despot, pardoning the thing you dream someday of being pardoned for.
‘I am sorry’ is no act of weakness. Quite the contrary. “I’ve made mistakes, I vow to be and do better” may be the strongest stand a human being can take. It would certainly make it easier to connect with you. It might even make it possible to like you. Which is, after all, what you crave so fervently.
You suck up to the Putins, but they’ve got your number, you seem to be the only who doesn’t know it, and this gigantic blindspot makes you oddly sympathetic. It’s very American — to be so full of yourself, so clueless, and so transparent.
So what keeps you from learning from the Jon Ponders? My God, man — your brother just passed, you said he was your best friend. Do you have a heart that breaks? Do you have a soul that grieves? What is it that keeps “I am sorry” the one thing you will never learn to feel and so never learn to say — the ghost of Roy Cohn, the ghost of your father?
Whatever it is, I pray that unholy armor of hubris and terror never leaves you.
Because if you ever showed a molecule of authentic humility, if you ever acknowledged your mistakes — from birth-er-ism to Charlottesville, from Me Too to Black Lives Matter, from immigration to your tax returns to the genocide of Covid-19: if you could actually look into the camera and ask for forgiveness from the families of the almost 180,000 Americans who have died on your watch…
If you ever betrayed a molecule of that kind of humanity, I worry that even the most skeptical and/or cynical of American hearts might open a crack and consider voting for you. I worry that you could win.
Which would be a disaster. For the planet, for our country, and for you.
But what am I worried about — you don’t read. And even if by some twist of fate you did read this, what I’m worried about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
Because you know what a con-man you are, God knows what a con-man you are — and we always have that as our ace-in-the-hole: a man incapable of facing his sins, of acknowledging his mistakes; a man incapable of saying “I am sorry.”
What we have is a sorry excuse for a human being.
We have you.
Who will do his best to insure that Joe Biden is elected next president of the United States.